I have moved into my studio apartment in Engelberg, Switzerland, where I will be spending the rest of the winter! And I have already had my first days on the mountain!
There’s no fresh snow right now, so I’ve just been cruising around on the different lifts and pistes, trying to get a feel for the place. My first impression is that the ski area is pretty BIG, despite looking fairly small on the ski map. There seems to be many options for off-piste skiing, and I know there are a lot of major lines that I can’t see. But this is not a place for carefree exploring, with large cliffs and crevasses on many slopes, not to mention potential avy danger. So a big hope I have is to find some people to ski with, who know this place and can show me the ropes. And that’s the impression I have, is that it will take some time, effort, and guidance to figure out the secrets of this place. Good thing I have all winter for that!
This week we are chilling out for Christmas holidays in the Austrian ski town of Mayrhofen. I’ve spent a couple days exploring the Mayrhofen ski area, an expansive area with a somewhat illogical lift arrangement. This is the first real mega-resort I’ve visited yet in the Alps, along with mega-crowds (especially since everyone’s on vacation this week). It’s quite the ski production here, with big fast lifts, the hugest tram I’ve ever seen, and the thumping Austrian apre-ski bars! I am also looking forward to exploring some of the other ski areas in the Zillertal valley in the next few days (Mayrhofen is just one… there’s three other ones I want to see too!) Though the snow conditions aren’t the best right now, it’s still fun to cruise around, snap photos, and check out new mountains.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays! As I mentioned in my email newsletter which I just sent out, I will miss my friends and family back home this holiday season, but I am in good company with Claudia over here and we will be spending this next week together in Mayrhofen, Austria. I hope Santa brings lots of snow!
The photo above is from the Black Forest (more like “White Forest”) the other day. The jolly snowman magically appeared via Photoshop!
Yesterday afternoon we drove up to Schauinsland, a mountain in the Black Forest above Freiburg, for a “look into the country” so to speak. We took a small hike through the winter-wonderland forest to the summit, where there’s a tall lookout tower offering a view over the Black Forest and the plains around Freiburg far below.
We stayed up there for a few hours, photographing the beautiful snow-plastered forest and waiting in the howling winds for what turned out to be an awesome sunset!
Last weekend we visited the towns of Grindelwald and Mürren in Switzerland. These towns are situated in the Jungfrau region near Interlaken, at the foot of some of the largest and most rugged mountains in Switzerland.
Above is a photo of Grindelwald, with Wetterhorn towering above in the moonlight. Not to be confused with the American Wetterhorn in Colorado… this is the original!
The town of Mürren is even more spectacular. It’s a car-free town perched on the edge of a sheer cliff high above a valley (requiring a cable-car ride to get to), with the Jungfrau peaks towering another 8,000 vertical feet overhead! Perhaps the most spectacular mountain town I’ve ever seen!
On Monday I left Itay and headed to Obergurgl, Austria. This little ski town is set at the end of a long, deep valley with soaring snow-smothered mountains rising on two sides. Tuesday was a mostly bluebird day and although there was not much fresh powder left, the groomers were wide and smooth, and I spent the whole day riding around the Hochgurgl/Obergurgl ski area checking it out. This place is impressive. It is the most beautiful ski area I’ve ever seen – in the sense that the mountains here are so perfectly suited for a ski resort. The mountains have a certain straight and broad aspect to them without any bottleneck valleys or useless flat ridges, and everything is covered in snow. Basically the entire slope from one end to the other is skiable, and the pistes could have been made anywhere on the mountain. And it’s nice and steep. This place would be mind-blowing on a big powder day… I hope to return sometime this winter!
This morning I woke up early and drove from San Martino to Arabba, enjoying the awesome Dolomiti views the whole way. Upon arriving in Arabba, I quickly reserved a room here, then immediately went to the ski hill! I had no idea what to expect, and was delighted to hear that the entire Dolomiti Superski area was open, and that I would be able to do the Sella Ronda, a famous and unique ski route that links four ski areas and circumnavigates the entire Sella Group of mountains via 42km of pistes and something like 12 chairlifts and gondolas (I lost track). This is a novel concept to me, and although the terrain is mostly cruising groomers, I enjoyed covering so much ground on my snowboard, and gawking at the incredible Dolomite spires and walls all around. And of course I found a few powder stashes along the way!
Here are some highlights from the route:
Marmolada, 3343m, one of the biggest peaks in the Dolomites.
Chairlift under a couple of the rugged Sassolungo peaks.